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The Castillo de Atarés: an excellent overlook of the oldest area of Havana

Published: 2016.08.24 - 15:44:15   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

The Castillo de Atarés: an excellent overlook of the oldest area of HavanaThe City Historian Office of Havana has recently began the process of restoration of the Castillo de Atarés, which is a military fortress that integrates the defensive system of Havana, built by the Spanish to protect the city in the eighteenth century.

The Castillo de Santo Domingo de Atarés is a work of great historical value that holds for decades the condition of National Monument, precisely because of its importance as a patrimony of the nation, a group of specialists has begun rehabilitation work that, according to the historian of Havana, Eusebio Leal Spengler Doctor, will return all its splendor.

"In compatibility with the interests that this eminent place has over the city and the port, Leal Spengler declares, it now allows us to demolish everything that was later built on top of the castle."

"The mountain trees have been pruned to see its beautiful structure, which was designed by the engineer Crame after the taking of Havana by the English, and most importantly, revealing archaeological excavations have been conducted, which have allowed us to find some of the ammunition depots, arms and elements. This will allow a tour through the historic city leading to the castle, which is like its natural overlook", reveals the Professor in Archaeological Sciences.

‘’Once the restoration period is finished, the city will win, said the Historian of Havana, and he added, ‘’this will a new outlook spot, a place from where you will be able to appreciate the beauty of the oldest part of the city.’’

The construction of the Castillo de Atarés had its genesis in the last days of the attack to Havana by the English, when the importance of the hill called "de Soto" (shortened form of the name of the owner of those grounds, Don Agustín Sotolongo and Pérez de las Alas) was proven, which ensured communication with other populations from the southern height of the city.

On that occasion, the captain Juan Antonio improvised on the hill a redoubt with 20 pieces, and ensured the entrance and exit of the city, as recounted by the historian Jacobo de la Pezuela in his book entitled ‘Crónica de las Antillas’.

After the taking of Havana by the English, the plan made by the Count of Riela, who was the Captain General on the island, envisaged the creation of a trilogy of fortifications to cross its fires and protect the communication of the city with neighboring grounds.

The start of construction was in 1763, together with the fortress of La Cabaña, due to the need to complete the defense of the villa for its vulnerabilities.

The Castillo de Santo Domingo de Atarés was the first of these new military buildings to complete, specifically in 1767.

Once most urgent works in the Morro and Cabaña were finished, Engineers Jorge Abarca and Agustín Crame established on the De Soto Hill, which was a place partially overlooking the bay, an irregular hexagon without bastions, crowned at its vertices by two equally hexagonal booths, which corresponded with the shapes used for these items during the eighteenth century.

In its grounds, the castle has large vaulted bombproof barracks for the Garrison, water tanks, warehouses and all offices necessary for its defense. It was equipped with 26 artillery pieces and its Garrison was 90 men. It took its name in honor of Count Ricla, whose father was the Count of Atarés.

Moreover, the fortress has one earthworks covered road and a small Central Square of Arms, which is surrounded by buildings for lodging, stores and other services, whose roofs were conditioned to establish artillery platforms, as well as a perimeter ditch.

Since its construction the Castillo de Atarés has been used as a military fortress, and the home of the presidential guard, prison and military unit; it is one of the few Spanish fortifications in Havana that currently is not open to the public and has not been converted into a museum.

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